The following letter from an IBM acquaintance of Bill McCowan brings the importance of that wonderful old-time rural Scarborough hospitality into clear focus:
Dear Bill and Nancy
We learnt you are celebrating the 40th anniversary of your wedding day on July 19. We want to wish you both the happiest day ever and the best of health and happiness for another 40 years.
Bill, you have been a special friend to us and our family since the summer of 1966. Very few of my friends have made the effort to stay in touch through all these years. Yet, our correspondence consists of merely an exchange of simple news about us and our growing families. I have always felt great pride in telling everyone, how one simple gesture of one evening has bridged a cultural divide. Believe me, for a single young man from India, Toronto was a lonely place in the 1966 summer. You changed it.
It all started when I was assigned for six months of training at the IBM Don Mills plant. I had asked to spend a week at the Leslie Street plant to learn the assembly process there. The technology was old but quite confusing for a novice. Here I met Bill, a ready and willing instructor, eager to share as much as he could in that short week. During a lunch break, Bill casually asked how I spent my evenings. My evenings were simple and routine: go home by bus, cook a meal, eat in the company of the Green Acres and Petticioat Junction crowd, read a bit and off to bed.
Bill had an idea. Right there he invited me to join him for dinner that evening. I gently suggested he may want to check with his wife wondering if he may want to back out. Bill's response was there will be no problem. There certainly was no problem. I do not know how often you did this, Bill. I saw the biggest welcoming smile on Nancy. She surely had not been informed about this guest, since I have a feeling Nancy did not eat quite a full meal that night. It was a treat to eat the simple but scrumptious home-cooked meal that evening. And then Barbara, Bruce and Ruth ... the best pleasure of that evening was having at the table the company of three little bright-eyed faces, who had just found out that they had a change in menu for them, since a stranger from India was visiting them. More excitement was in store. Bill drove me over to meet his mother, who had a home near the lake (at the edge of the Scarborough Bluffs). Another round of dessert and coffee was served in the backyard. This was a dream of an evening.
That was all. That was the extent of our personal contact. But it could not be more meaningful in its simplicity and sincerity. For sure, thanks to you, Bill and Nancy, Canada has not been a strange and lonely place any more for this family from India.